Designing an apparatus to respond to technical rescue incidents is no easy task. Making the proper decisions for the needs of the apparatus is time consuming and costly. So too is the process of recognizing the types of technical rescue responses, specialized training, and the equipment needed...
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During a vertical confined-space rescue, a retrieval system using a tripod, A-frame or ladder gin may be needed to extricate the victim and rescuers. With any of the above-mentioned retrieval systems, a haul system is usually added to allow better management and control in bringing the rescuer and victim out. A 4:1 mechanical-advantage system is affixed to the high point of the retrieval system to let rescuers be lowered and to bring the rescuers and victim out. Hauling systems for rescue operations should be stored on the apparatus as a complete system. By having the systems pre-rigged, the team can locate the proper bag on the apparatus and quickly attach it to the high point of the retrieval device. Many rescue teams have vehicle-mounted or portable winches, but the use of mechanical winches is not recommended when dealing with life safety.
Along with the above equipment, many pieces of rescue rope hardware are needed. Carabiners, rescue racks, pulleys, webbing, prusik cord, anchor and eight plates are some of the other specialized pieces of equipment needed to conduct a safe and effective confined-space rescue. A search-and-rescue (SAR) rope bag is an efficient way to carry and manage rope and hardware needed for this type of rescue.
Rope rescue is another technical rescue incident a rescue team must prepare for. A fire department's response area may not have skyscrapers or deep gorges, where many rope rescues would take place, but rope-rescue incidents can involve low-angle locations, scaffolding, gorges, bridges, utility towers, cranes or industrial smokestacks, to name a few. Many of the skills and techniques achieved through this specialized training are used during both confined-space and rope-rescue incidents. However, the equipment needed and skills obtained for rope rescues must be part of the technical rescue team's operation. Much of the equipment needed for a confined space incident also will be used at a rope-rescue incident.
Class II and Class III harnesses are recommended for use in rope-rescue operations. Static kernmantle rope is used for the main and belay lines. Some cut rope to varied lengths while others carry large spools of rope (600 to 1,000 feet) and then cut it to the length needed. SAR rope bags give the rescuers the rope and hardware needed to anchor and put a system together. Pickoff straps, edge protection, webbing, prusik cord, mariner straps, and belay and ascending devices are added to the team's equipment cache. Communications for these incidents are most often accomplished by using the team's portable radios.
Depending on the environment a team responds to, a device that can propel the rope (rope gun) over a very wide area (gorge or natural depression) will be needed where a high line would be used. Patient-packaging devices that may be used for a rope rescue are the same as those used for victims involved in confined-space incidents.
Achieving the objectives of a technical rescue team is a continuing process. A team's ability to maintain staffing, training, new equipment and attitude to stay sharp is of the utmost importance. These incidents typically are not an everyday occurrence, but when they occur, a team must meet the goals established when the team was organized.
JERRY MAZURKIEWICZ Jr. is a Fire Protection Specialist for the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, assigned to the Special Services Bureau. He also is a firefighter with the Berwyn Heights Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, MD. He may be contacted at email@example.com.